Apparently, being first means being best because with training camp still several weeks away, The Hockey News is picking the Edmonton Oilers to finish 11th in the Western Conference.
Now, I’m not convinced the Oilers are a playoff team this coming season, but picking them, or any other team for that matter, to finish in a particular spot seems just a tad premature, don’t you think? Maybe wait until, what, the first week of September? Or until preseason? What’s the hurry, THN?
11. Edmonton Oilers
“Why: One old goalie has been swapped for another, but it’s the same cast of skaters who’ve missed the playoffs for the past three seasons after the ’06 Cup run. The new two-headed coaching monster in Pat Quinn and Tom Renney could provide gains, but the Oilers are still far off the West’s A-list.”
This dire projection is part of a Western Conference preview in which THN pegs Phoenix 15th, Colorado 14th, Minnesota 13th and Los Angeles 12th. The top 10 is yet to come.
There, you have it.
What’s the rush?
I used to think it was nuts when my sports editor would inform me that the deadline for the obligatory pre-season NHL supplement — that’s newspaper talk for an attempted advertising cash grab that always stiffs at the till — was three days before teams made their final cuts. While convenient for the ad guys, it did nothing for accuracy, especially in seasons when there were a number of players on the bubble and difficult decisions to make.
The way I see it, THN takes that to an even more extreme degree by picking the Oilers to finish 11th, or fifth or sixth for that matter, before the middle of August.
What, GM Steve Tambellini can’t substantially change the face of this team in the next month? I’m not saying he will — Dany Heatley isn’t about to change his mind and there’s nothing on the table with anybody else right now — but to preclude the possibility he might seems goofy to me. No?
What kind of shape will Dustin Penner be in when camp opens? Will Pat Quinn and Tom Renney light a fire under him or will PDP be back at the buffet table and in the doghouse by mid-October?
Will Patrick O’Sullivan be better with a camp here under his belt? Where will Andrew Cogliano play? Who’ll play together on the second line? Will Lubomir Visnovsky be healthy when the season opens? Tom Gilbert?
I don’t know the answers to those questions right now and neither does THN, so how do they come up with 11th? Likewise, will Tambellini stand pat between now and the season-opener? Same answer.
If I recall correctly, THN had the Oilers finishing sixth last season, and they made that call about this time a year ago. How’d that work out?
If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll wait a month or so until I get some answers to the questions we’re all asking. Predictions are a guess at the best of times, but there’s educated guesses and August guesses.
I’ll take the former every time.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.